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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

What NAU taught us about the road ahead

The Arizona football team routed NAU, 41-10, in Saturday’s season-opener at Arizona Stadium. While there isn’t anything telling about how good Arizona will be in the long run, the UA offense showed it hasn’t missed a beat and the defense’s newcomers were able to step in and be productive. And all of it gave hints at what to expect come Thursday’s showdown with Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla. Here’s a look at the key plays and intriguing numbers from Saturday:

The turning point

After scoring on a three-play, 54-yard drive on their first possession and a seven-play, 52-yard drive on their third, the Wildcats’ offense lost its rhythm for nearly the entire second quarter, allowing NAU to cut the Arizona lead to four heading into halftime.

But things changed on NAU’s second offensive play of the second half, when a diving Trevin Wade intercepted quarterback Cary Grossart in front of the Arizona sideline.

“At halftime, (defensive coordinator Tim Kish) said that somebody needs to make a play,” Wade said. “All I can do is do my job, and when it comes to my side try to make a play for the team.”

Back to business

After a roller coaster of an offseason, receiver Juron Criner returned to action on Saturday. At one point this offseason it wasn’t clear whether Criner would be part of the team in 2011. But Criner’s back, and he returned to his old, dominating self against NAU.

Criner caught six catches for 151 yards and a score, including a 44-yard strike on Arizona’s first play of the game.

“For some reason, (NAU) was giving me coverages where they were going man-on-man on Juron,” quarterback Nick Foles said. “They didn’t give me the exact coverage I’d been planning for, but they gave me a better coverage.”

Foles also appeared to be in midseason form, connecting on 34-of-42 passing for 412 yards and five touchdowns — each to a different receiver. After one week of play, Foles leads all of the NCAA FBS quarterbacks in passing yards.

Carey-ing the rock

Freshman running back Ka’Deem Carey showed why he was Arizona’s most sought-after recruit in the class of 2011. Carey picked up 59 yards on nine carries, making him Arizona’s leading rusher on Saturday.

Carey added one catch for five yards in his first taste of college football.

“He’s going to be a good one,” head coach Mike Stoops said. “He’s legit.”

Highlight reel

Keola Antolin’s 18-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter was one of the most impressive plays of his career. Antolin took a swing pass from Foles and slipped a couple tackles before tiptoeing the sideline for the last five yards or so into the end zone.

The score came after Wade’s interception and added to Arizona’s building momentum. Antolin’s touchdown accounted for the first six points in a run of 27-straight unanswered points for Arizona.

What we learned

Arizona’s biggest questions were on the offensive and defensive lines, and both units performed well. But it was against NAU, and the Wildcats’ first real test won’t be until Thursday at Oklahoma State.

Wade appears to have moved on from a poor 2010, and safeties Robert Golden and Marquis Flowers delivered a few big hits, living up to their reputations.

As expected, the offense used the pass to set up the run, and often used short, wide passes as a substitute for a running game.

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